Now I should note before I go into this that I’ve played and beaten the entire game with a 100% completion on the Xbox One. Most of this review, however focuses on PC-exclusive features that new players should know about.
Now if you waited for this title, you’re rewarded with some very nice tessellation action, as well as an exclusive full-screen mode where you can use a monitor with 120 Hz refresh rate! Assuming you have the graphics card to play this thing on high, you can play it in a nice 60 fps for mind-numbing graphics that are sure to make you happy you’re part of the ubiquitous “PC Master Race” (PCMR).
There are a variety of “fine tuned” additions to the PC version to enhance its visual appeal. Although the frame rate is a lot smoother (and somewhat varied in quality from computer to computer), you can make it look like you’re playing on an Xbox One by disabling graphically heavy features, such as ambient occlusion. But why you would do that is beyond me.
A feature I’m still not really caring about is multiplayer, where players can buy cards or earn them in-game by completing challenges. For added bonuses, you can also spend real world cash to unlock some other features or outfits that Lara Croft can wear.
The current story kicks off as you are traveling to Syria and the Himalayas in search of the Divine Source, an ancient relic which bestows immortality upon its users. A secret organization called Trinity wants to use it to recreate the world in their image…claiming it as God’s work. The story is fairly simple to follow for the most part, although I don’t want to dabble to much into it for fear of spoiling it for everyone.
You also get to meet Lara Croft’s father and learn of the fate that befell him on his last journey. Now on to the main thing about this game and how it differs from its predecessor. In the previous title your goals were very relaxed and straightforward. There were always indicators showing you where to go. The skills were also clear, albeit redundant (as was much of the equipment you found).
The 2013 installment felt like it was holding your hand through the entire game, even on harder settings. I found it disappointing to say the least now with the new Rise of the Tomb Raider. I was expecting the same treatment, but as I stated earlier not much in the first game prepared me for this. The computer AI is still generally pretty stupid; no real improvements. However now there is a new in-depth crafting system with which you can make pretty much anything. Hungry? Tear down a tiny tree and make a bow from it to go hunting…and from there grab some feathers and sticks to make arrows. Trinity soldiers coming your way use equipment better, so you must literally head-shot them with your newly acquired arrows.
Are you badly injured? Grab a leaf and some clothes and make a bandage using your hardcore Indian-styled survival skills…one with nature! Speaking of being one with nature, why not hide in the bushes and jump-attack anyone who comes by? Don’t forget to loot their corpse! The amount of crafting skills is phenomenal; improvising everything on the go…even making shrapnel grenades from materials you pick up.
But where the game truly begins to shine is when you start adding skills into the mix and finding new skills from tombs. Where in the first game you would just get experience and some salvage from looting an ancient tomb, in this one you gain new abilities from codecs which work in tandem with your current skill sets that you unlock as you gain skill points. For example in the initial tomb, you unlock a rapid fire arrow ability and a skill that allows you to fire two arrows in rapid succession. Using these skills in tandem means you can now fire four arrows. If you get head shots, that is an easy four skills right from the get go.
Expanding into story-related things, you can take side missions from various NPC’s you meet along the way. In doing so you can unlock more equipment to help you progress through the game, such as lock picks, weapon sights, and various other equipment, not to mention the treasures you find that can be used for purchasing more equipment for weapons or general upgrades.
Now with all these new features in a Tomb Raider title, you may ask yourself where Square Enix screwed up. That my friends, as many have guessed is in micro-transactions! You can spend real-world money to purchase extra outfits for Lara, or cards to be used in expedition mode! Although if you complete challenges in the campaign you can actually get card packs for free and on my very first one I got the bobble head Lara unlock so now my head is gigantic. However they are not usable in the main game which is kind of a bummer, although it would be pretty funny if it was usable in the main story.
The main issue I faced in the game was the learning curve with the new mechanics, not to mention the missing hand-holding features. Entire areas blend together with no identifying marks as to where to jump or how to move about. Only the way-point indicator for survival mode has remained the same…that and finding things in survival mode.
The game delivers so well on the visuals to the point I want to cry at its beauty. With its musical composition and riveting story, it truly is an amazing game. Although let’s be honest, Square Enix couldn’t really mess that up with their excellent writing staff.
In conclusion, is Rise of the Tomb Raider better on PC than it was on the Xbox One? Absolutely. There is a reason PC players refer to themselves as the “Master Race”. The extra features allow for a more immersive experience and jaw-dropping graphics. It’s simply amazing and absolutely enjoyable.